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Finding Aid to the People vs. Owen Bathhouse Closure Litigation Records, 1984-1987
SFH 31  
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Provenance
  • Related Archival Materials
  • Related Publications
  • Conservation Note
  • Biographical/Historical note
  • Scope and Contents
  • Arrangement

  • Title: People vs. Owen Bathhouse Closure Litigation Records
    Date (inclusive): 1984-1987
    Collection Identifier: SFH 31
    Creator: San Francisco (Calif.). Bureau of Communicable Disease Control.
    Physical Description: 1 carton (1.0 cubic feet)
    Contributing Institution: San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library
    100 Larkin Street
    San Francisco, CA, 94102
    (415) 557-4567
    info@sfpl.org
    Abstract: Court documents and other records related to the case People of the State of California, ex rel. George Agnost, et al. vs. Ima Jean Owen, et al. (Superior Court No. 830-321), aka People vs. Owen, filed October 10, 1984, by San Francisco City Attorney George Agnost and Director of Public Health Mervyn Silverman, in an effort to close fourteen bathhouses, sex clubs, bookstores, and adult movie theaters by claiming them to be a public nuisance, in response to the burgeoning AIDS epidemic.
    Physical Location: The collection is stored onsite.
    Language of Materials: Collection materials are in English.

    Access

    The collection is open for research. Please call the San Francisco History Center for hours and information at 415-557-4567.
    Four confidential documents written between City Attorneys and Department of Public Health officials are restricted from public access.

    Publication Rights

    All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the City Archivist. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the San Francisco Public Library as the owner of the physical items.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], People vs. Owen Bathhouse Closure Litigation Records, 1984-1987 (SFH 31), San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.

    Provenance

    The collection was acquired via an anonymous donation December 18, 1996.

    Related Archival Materials

    Researchers are encouraged to see also AIDS Office of the San Francisco Department of Public Health Records, 1982-1994 (SFH 4).

    Related Publications

    Researchers are encouraged to see also "The San Francisco Bathhouse Battles of 1984: Civil Liberties, AIDS Risk, and Shifts in Health Policy." Disman, Christopher. Co-published simultaneously in Journal of Homosexuality, (Harrington Park Press, an imprint of The Haworth Press, Inc.) Vol. 44, Nos. ¾, 2003, pp. 71-129; and Gay Bathhouses and Public Health Policy, (ed. William J. Woods and Diane Binson) Harrington Park Press, an imprint of The Haworth Press, Inc., 2003, pp. 71-129.

    Conservation Note

    During processing, the entire collection was re-foldered and re-housed in acid-free folders and boxes. Some metal staples remain.

    Biographical/Historical note

    The court case People of the State of California, ex rel. George Agnost, et al. vs. Ima Jean Owen, et al. (Superior Court No. 830-321), aka People vs. Owen, filed Oct. 10, 1984 by San Francisco City Attorney George Agnost and Director of Public Health Mervyn Silverman, documents the efforts of the San Francisco Department of Public Health to close fourteen bathhouses, sex clubs, bookstores, and adult movie theaters by claiming them to be a public nuisance, as a response to the then-new knowledge of sexual methods of AIDS transmission. More broadly, the case positions San Francisco in a local and ultimately national public debate over AIDS–related policies in the 1980s, in which city officials, community activists, and private citizens struggle with the relationship between public health and gay civil rights.
    Defendant businesses in the original Oct. 10 complaint were: The Academy; The Animals; The Boot Camp; Club Baths of San Francisco; California Baths Corp.; Club San Francisco; Folsom Gulch Books; Gartman Enterprises; Jack's Turkish Baths; Jaguar Book Store; The Savages Theater; San Francisco Health Club; Tea Room Theater; The Slot Hotel; The Baths.
    Although the provenance of this collection is unknown, based on the organization and original notations on the material, the records appear to be from the files of Dean Echenberg, then-Director of the Bureau of Communicable Disease Control, of the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

    Scope and Contents

    The bulk of the material consists of copies of pleadings filed by both plaintiffs and defendants, including declarations of physicians, public health experts, and investigators, upon which the City based its application for a temporary restraining order, preliminary injunction, and permanent injunction to enforce Dr. Silverman's closure order of Oct. 9, 1984; along with subsequent court filings, including writs of supersedeas, a summons, the modified preliminary injunction, depositions, supplemental declarations, exhibits, and a defendants' first set of interrogatories. There is also some case-related correspondence, including letters, memos, articles, and investigative reports, between city officials, law firms, private investigators, and community organizations. Some correspondence concerns proposed legislation to transfer jurisdiction for bathhouses from the Police Code to the Health Code.
    The declarations in support of the bathhouse closures are of particular interest, as they reflect a representative set of medical and official points of view on businesses that facilitate public gay sex and the relationship of these businesses to the spread of AIDS. Declarants include Mervyn Silverman, Director of Public Health (DPH); Dean Echenberg, Director of the Bureau of Communicable Disease Control at DPH; faculty and administrators at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), San Francisco General Hospital (SFGH), Mount Zion Hospital, the AIDS Activities Office, San Francisco Veterans Administration Medical Center, California State Department of Health Services, the Center for Disease Control; and several private investigators.

    Arrangement

    The collection is arranged in two series: Series 1. Sex clubs/Bathhouses Subject Files, 1984-1986; Series 2. Court documents, 1984-1987. Series 2 is arranged chronologically.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    San Francisco (Calif.). Bureau of Communicable Disease Control. -- Archives
    AIDS (Disease)--California--San Francisco--History
    AIDS (Disease)--Epidemiology
    AIDS (Disease)--Government policy--California--San Francisco
    AIDS (Disease)--Political aspects
    Civil court records
    Gay bathhouses--California--San Francisco.
    Gay men--Sexual behavior--Government policy--California--San Francisco.
    Echenberg, Dean Fredric